From rattlesnakes to chile peppers, Arizona and New Mexico boast several interesting state symbols. These animals, foods, songs, flags and more represent rich histories that are still alive and well today. See for yourself what makes these states so fascinating.
Did you know that New Mexico’s official state aircraft is the hot air balloon? It is, and with good reason. Every year in early October, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta adds vibrant color to the sky with more than 100 hot air balloons and plenty of exciting activities at Balloon Fiesta Park. Take the kids to the Balloon Discovery Center, or cheer on your favorite pilot at the Flying Competition Sandia Resort & Casino $100,000 Challenge. For those who don’t want to miss a thing, the Group Tour Hospitality Package is a great option. When you arrive at the Fiesta, you’ll be greeted with refreshments, then led to all the important attractions and events throughout the park. This year’s Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta will be held October 1 through 9, 2011, so visit www.balloonfiesta.com before you lift off.
It’s no secret that the cactus is an important part of Arizona’s state history and culture. Even the official state flower is the blossom of the saguaro cactus. Because the saguaro cactus is almost an endangered species, people can only enjoy them from a visual perspective. However, if you want to try tasting the nectar of a cactus, head to Arizona Cactus Ranch
in Green Valley, Arizona where there’s no shortage of the Englemann prickly pear cactus. This plant produces fruit buds that are collected by the folks at the ranch and made into a sweet juice. Prickly pear nectar does not contain any sugar or preservatives, and has been found to help control cholesterol, blood pressure, triglyceride and weight levels. The Arizona Cactus Ranch sells a variety of delicious products made from cactus juice; try the Prickly Pear Fruit Jam, 100 percent natural prickly pear concentrate with apple juice. If you love the sweet taste of the nectar on its own, order the Prickly Pear Nectar – all you have to do is add one teaspoon to eight ounces of water or juice. Visit www.arizonacactusranch.com for product information, as well as more facts about all the health benefits this cactus has to offer.
Named New Mexico’s official state gem in 1967, turquoise is a recognizable stone loved around the world. Visitors today can appreciate all the treasures within the state’s natural surroundings at the Turquoise Trail, a National Scenic Byway. The Trail is composed of 15,000 square miles between Albuquerque and Santa Fe where Pueblo people once mined for the blue-green gem in 900 AD. Check out the town of Cedar Crest where the Museum of Archaeology and Material Culture features several state treasures. If you want to discover the land on your own, visit Sandia Park for hiking, biking, horseback riding and more. Who knows, you may even uncover your own hidden gem along the Turquoise Trail. For local events and attractions in this area, visit www.turquoisetrail.org.
Additional information about official state flowers, nicknames and more can be found at www.azgovernor.gov/kids/State_Facts.asp and www.newmexico.org/kids/learn/faqs.php. See which state symbols pique your interest and check them out with the whole family.